German data protection officials have called for privacy laws to be tightened.
The call follows a scandal over the illegal sales of personal data when officials claimed that they could buy six million items online. This included bank account details and phone numbers and was set to cost only €850 (£671).
This follows a data protection office in north Germany claiming that it had received CDs containing thousands of personal data items, including bank account details, dates of birth and addresses, collected by a call centre.
Head of the office, Thilo Weichert, told Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that up to 20 million pieces of data from people's bank accounts had been sold on to third parties. He said: “The sale of bank account data is just as illegal as unsolicited telephone marketing - so-called ‘cold calling'. Lawmakers can do more to protect consumers. The transfer of data for marketing purposes should be made universally conditional on the customer's approval.”
He said that firms that discover illegal use of customers' data should be obliged to inform the affected customers.